The award, which celebrates the accomplishments of lawyers who promote a more racially and ethnically diverse legal profession, will be presented Feb. 9 at the Hilton Anatole during the ABA Midyear Meeting in Dallas.
A citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Leeds is the first Native American woman to be a law school dean. The first and only woman to serve as a justice on the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court, Leeds is also one of five appointees to the Secretarial Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform. The commission is conducting a comprehensive evaluation of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s management and administration of nearly $4 billion in American Indian trust funds.
Leeds earned her LL.M. degree after completing a fellowship at the University of Wisconsin Law School, before joining the faculty of the University of North Dakota’s School of Law, where she was director of the Northern Plains Indian Law Center. She worked as a law professor at the University of Kansas before she accepted her position at Arkansas in 2011.
“Stacy Leeds richly deserves the Spirit of Excellence Award because of her commitment to academic and professional development, which continues to inspire multitudes of younger lawyers and law students,” said Reginald Turner, the chair of the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession. “She represents what is possible when one is willing to strive and reach for the stars.”
“She was the only woman and the youngest person ever to serve as a Supreme Court Justice for the Cherokee Nation,” Turner added. “She also has the remarkable distinction of being the first Native American woman to serve as dean of a law school, where she provides an example to future generations of lawyers.”
The mission of the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession is to promote racial and ethnic diversity and inclusion within the legal profession. It serves as a catalyst for change, so that the profession may more accurately reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of society, and better serve society. The Commission takes actions to promote the recruitment, hiring, promotion and advancement of attorneys of color, and works to ensure equal membership and employment opportunities for diverse lawyers in the American Bar Association. The Commission accomplishes these goals through many initiatives, activities and programs, including the Spirit of Excellence Award.
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.
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